Like about 40,000 other Irish people, Michael Deasy will be in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday for the clash of Ireland and Samoa.
The only difference is he will be hoping for an away victory.
National strength and conditioning coach for the Samoan Rugby Union is a post few young boys dream of while growing up in Kilbrittain, Co Cork, but Deasy has played his cards as they have fallen and is immensely enjoying the experience.
A four-year sports science degree in the University of Limerick came with a work-placement opportunity in third year and Deasy’s open-mindedness meant he was more than willing to get involved in a sport he wasn’t overly familiar with on the other side of the world.
“It was through PJ Smith, a psychology lecturer in UL, that the post as an intern S&C coach came up,” Deasy explained.
“Basically it was a case of being involved in everything and anything from academy level upwards, from the dirtiest of jobs right up to helping out with the national team.”
Having returned to Limerick to finish his degree, Deasy then took up full-time employment as the assistant national strength and conditioning coach in Samoa before earning a promotion to the top role, initially on an interim basis and then permanently from January of this year. Not bad going for somebody who hadn’t even reached their 25th birthday.
“I do get it quite a lot that I’m very young,” he admitted. “I have a lot of experience of working with Samoan players though and there is always plenty of advice if I need it. The Samoans are regarded as being like the Irish of the Pacific, so it’s great from that point of view.
“Samoa isn’t a very rich country but people get by, they have a very good attitude.”
Not that his tenure there should be confused with a holiday.
“Some people seem to think that I’m on a tropical island, doing nothing,” Deasy said, “but this is top-level international rugby, so obviously it’s going to be challenging.
“There is a lot of travel involved, before coming over here we had 10 weeks or so in Australia, New Zealand and Australia. We were based in Surrey for training for the past week and then after the Ireland game we play the French Barbarians and Georgia.
“From the outside, it might look like a holiday, but it can be hard work. Most days I’m up about 5.30am and going until about 10 at night.”
In Kilbrittain, just south of Bandon, rugby — in a participatory sense — doesn’t get much of a look-in as hurling reigns supreme.
A lack of in-depth knowledge prior to going to Samoa has not hampered Deasy’s progress, however.
“I came from a GAA and triathlon background,” he said, “but the best thing about a job like this is that you’re always learning.
“Needs analysis and psychology are big parts of the job and the research is improving all the time. There’s something new to learn every day, it’s when you close your mind to something that you’ll be in trouble.”
If there is one regret, it’s that his location prevents him from playing hurling but he is philosophical as to what the future holds.
“I have a contract with Samoa until after the World Cup in 2015,” he said.
“In the future, I’d love to be involved in GAA at some stage, for me hurling will always be the greatest game in the world. I’d be looking at the Kilbrittain GAA Facebook page when there’s a big match and thinking that I could be out there. If they could ever afford an S&C coach I’d definitely come home!”
Michael’s mother Kathleen and sister Miriam — an All-Ireland camogie medallist with Cork — will travel up for Saturday’s game, while his twin brother Patrick is based in Dublin. The family will also get to catch up when Michael comes home for a few weeks after the Samoan tour ends. He is relying on that stint to re-inject a bit of Irishness back into his accent, which has accepted a Pacific influence.
“I’m getting that a lot,” he laughed, “but then I’ve the Samoan bastards on the other side saying that I still talk too fast! Every so often, I’ll hear myself use a saying and I’ll wonder where it came from, so it’ll be good to spend some time at home again!”
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